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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

"Listening to Mitchell" will be accessible to street strollers all summer long.

In Arts & Entertainment

Mitchell Street has always been a destination to buy wedding and First Communion dresses. This is reflected in the project.

"Listening to Mitchell" installation launches in June


Historic Mitchell Street is one of the liveliest corridors in the city. Even with the loss of Goldmann's Department Store and the Modjeska Theater, businesses like Lopez Bakery and independently owned bridal and candy shops still give it a completely unique urban flavor.

To celebrate the street, artists Sonja Thomsen and Adam Carr created "Listening To Mitchell Street," a three-month installation that will run from June to September.

"'Listening to Mitchell' is a fantastic spark to begin the process of rethinking our own histories and future," says José Pérez, alderman of the 12th District, which includes Historic Mitchell Street.

The installation will include photos, audio and a map that will guide visitors through a seven-block interactive experience on Mitchell Street between 5th and 12th Streets. The imagery will range from 20-foot murals on building exteriors to five-inch photos on checkout counters.

"The project will grow throughout June," says Carr. "The first few pieces were installed this week, and we'll be getting them in windows, on walls and inside stores throughout the month."

This weekend, in conjunction with the Sun Fair, the artists will interview and talk to fairgoers from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. They will also distribute postcards for people to write on with their Mitchell Street memories.

"From my experience, the crowd on the street during the Sun Fair is pretty interesting, so we're really looking forward to it," says Carr.

Following this weekend, the project will continue to evolve.

Thomsen and Carr spent a year and a half developing "Listening to Mitchell Street." During that time, they interviewed more than 50 residents, business owners and community leaders.

On Friday, July 11, an audio portion of the installation will be unveiled at 6 p.m. on 8th and Mitchell Streets.

The audio, which will be available through August, will allow people to dial (414) 921-2622 and listen to discussions compiled from the interviews. The conversations revolve around topics such as "We refuse to grow up," "South Side story," "Same language" and "Different rhythm."

"Visitors will be fully immersed in a composed soundscape as they have likely never been before," says Shane Myrbeck from the international design firm Arup, which helped with the audio portion.

"Listening to Mitchell" is Thomsen and Carr's second collaboration. Their first, here, mothers are, created a family narrative on and in the yard of a foreclosed home in the Amani neighborhood on Milwaukee's North Side.

Supporters of "Listening to Mitchell" are City of Milwaukee Arts Board, Greater Milwaukee Foundation's Mary L. Nohl Fund, Zilber Family Foundation, Arup, the Chipstone Foundation, Business Improvement District #4 Mitchell Street, City of Milwaukee Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation, Astor Street Foundation, Arts@Large, Communicor, Signarama Milwaukee Downtown and Burton & Mayer.

Thomsen is a Milwaukee-based artist whose multifaceted practice includes sculpture, interactive installation, photography and site-specific public art. She earned an MFA in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and has worked with the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, New Mexico Museum of Art, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Center for Photography at Woodstock, among others.

In 2011, Thomsen was awarded the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists. Her work resides in the collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Reykjavík Museum of Photography and the Midwest Photographers Project at Museum of Contemporary Photography.

She is also a member of the international photography collective Piece of Cake and co-director of The Pitch Project gallery.

Carr is a media producer and cultural field worker who lives in Milwaukee. He graduated from Carleton College in 2007 and worked as a producer at 88Nine RadioMilwaukee.

Recent projects include work with the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, Milwaukee Art Museum, United Way, Reagan High School, LISC Milwaukee, Arts@Large, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Plaid Tuba, Artists Working in Education and the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion.

"Artists like Thomsen and Carr allow us to understand ourselves, our neighborhoods, our history and our aspirations in new ways," says Polly Morris, chair of the Public Art Subcommittee of the Milwaukee Arts Board.

"The 'listening' in 'Listening to Mitchell' also involves seeing, and like ethnographers, the artists have unearthed their material — stories and images — through close involvement with the Mitchell Street neighborhood over an extended period of time."

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